Great day to be a hitter
Roy Oswalt definitely will be returning for the Astros; he's scheduled to make his first start since July 28. He declared himself pain-free Sunday and draws the Marlins in his first start back. Will he return to pick up where he left off -- he had six consecutive quality starts before leaving his start against the Cubs -- or will he be a little rusty? Read on.
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 11, 2009
Selected notes: All things considered, Oswalt should do well against the Marlins, but the one thing to watch for will be the home runs. Four Marlins have taken Oswalt deep before, and three of them -- Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu and Jeremy Hermida -- have done so twice. Coming off a back injury, Oswalt might have a little rustiness to shake off -- he himself said, "The biggest thing is just command right now." The Braves ended Randy Wolf's streak of seven consecutive quality starts when they scored four runs on nine hits against him Thursday. Fortunately, Wolf already has shut out the Giants for six innings this season, and the Giants might be without Aaron Rowand due to injury. Wolf also has pitched significantly better on the road this season than at home, so perhaps he'll start a new streak. Chris Volstad is sporting an ugly 12-10 strikeout-walk ratio in his past four starts and an equally unflattering 6.15 ERA. He gets recommended, however, because the Astros have a predominantly right-handed lineup. Although Volstad has allowed a whopping 23 home runs in his 136 2/3 innings, 16 have come against left-handers. Righties, on the other hand, are slugging only .409 against him. Sure, Berkman might return by Tuesday, but that's no guarantee, and he's the only above-average left-handed hitter the Astros can throw out there. In his last start against the Royals, Nick Blackburn allowed 10 hits and two home runs, yet allowed only three runs, two of them earned. Those are the benefits of pitching against the Royals; even when you're hittable, they just don't have enough threats in their lineup to make you pay for it. So even though Blackburn has been up and down recently, you have to throw him out there against the league's worst offense against right-handers (.707 OPS). It hasn't been pretty, but Rick Porcello has bounced back from a string of awful starts to post a 2.04 ERA in his past two starts. The 4-4 strikeout-walk ratio makes you cringe, but at least he put an end to his streak of five straight starts with a home run allowed. Porcello is too risky to play against the Red Sox, but it's a good test, as the Sox offense is struggling this month, scoring just eight runs in four games against the Yankees. The Nationals lead the majors in batting average (.323) and slugging percentage (.548) in August, and currently boast as hot a middle-of-the-order lineup as any team in baseball. That means you shouldn't get frisky and think about playing Tommy Hanson against them, especially since he's not fanning as many batters as expected, making him unlikely to buffer a poor start via the strikeout.
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Markakis isn't known for his power, but that might not matter much against Trevor Cahill, who has allowed 19 home runs and a .603 slugging percentage to left-handed hitters. Serve up a few of those meatball pitches to Markakis, and there's a good chance his singles and doubles could stretch into doubles and home runs.
• Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: Damon already has blasted four home runs this month, and he should have another strong day versus Scott Richmond. Teams have loaded up on lefties when facing Richmond, and for good reason, since lefty swingers have slugged .539 off him. Twelve of Richmond's 15 home runs allowed have gone to southpaws, and for what it's worth, Damon already is 1-for-2 with a triple against him lifetime.
• Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: Lind is 2-for-3 with a homer against Joba Chamberlain this season, upping his career numbers against him to 4-for-8 with a double and the aforementioned blast.
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs: After a 4-for-5 game Sunday, Bradley's OPS is more than .800 for the first time all season. The power still is nowhere to be seen, but he's hitting .360 against lefties, so at least he has carved out some kind of value.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Braden Looper is awful versus left-handed batters, with a .542 slugging percentage allowed, and Gonzalez has taken him deep twice in 15 at-bats, adding two doubles as well.
• Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies: It seems Hawpe has suffered a power outage of sorts, slugging less than .400 since the All-Star break. A matchup with Ross Ohlendorf should serve him well, though; he's 3-for-3 with a double and a home run against the righty, who also allows lefties to slug better than .500 against him.
• Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: Lopez has been racking up hits recently, hitting .354 since July 16. And because he has walked just once in that time frame, that average understates his contribution to the category. He's 6-for-10 against John Danks, so expect his hitting ways to continue.
• Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: He's still looking for his first hit against Roy Oswalt, who has fanned him five times in 12 at-bats.
• Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies: Ibanez's strikeout total matches his number of hits -- five in 26 at-bats -- and overall, he's batting .192 against Rich Harden for his career. In case you're wondering whether Ibanez has fared better in this, his career season, the answer is no. He has gone 0-for-3 against Harden this season.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: It's not often you see a pitcher like Kyle Davies, 6.37 ERA and all, limit a former MVP to a .067 average in 15 at-bats. Morneau has been able to muster only two walks and a single, and has been set down on strikeouts four times in those 15 at-bats.
• Nick Johnson, 1B, Marlins: While he has earned his usual number of walks (four), when it comes to hitting, Johnson is just 3-for-14 against Roy Oswalt with four strikeouts. Since he doesn't have much power, if you can't count on at least a hit or two from him, there's little reason to play him.
• Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: A career .244 hitter against southpaws, with just five home runs in 176 at-bats, you're better off leaving Morales on your bench when he faces David Price.
If you're hardcore
• Ryan Church, OF, Braves: Church is 9-for-24 (.375) in his past six starts, swatting three doubles and a long ball. Plus, he has had a lot of success against John Lannan in a limited number of at-bats, with two doubles and two homers in just 12 career plate appearances.
• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: Diaz continues to be a valuable platoon partner, as his batting average is up to .363 against southpaws in 102 at-bats. He is 6-for-13 against Lannan in his career and is hitting .318 since July, so if you sorely need a boost in batting average, Diaz is the guy you're looking for.
• Kelly Johnson, 2B, Braves: Johnson is making a strong case for more playing time, as he already has three home runs since returning from the disabled list, including two in his past three games. Chipper Jones is banged up, so Prado can start at third base and Johnson at second. Or, if Jones returns Tuesday, Johnson might just start over Prado anyway; Johnson is 6-for-15 (.400) with two doubles and a dinger versus Lannan, while Prado is just 1-for-8.
• Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals: Dukes could be the next Nationals hitter to heat up; he's 6-for-12 in his past three games, with a double and a homer. He's hitting behind Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, two .400-plus OBP guys, which explains the 10 RBIs during that span. The opportunity is there for Dukes to do some damage over the rest of the season, and he's once again worth a flier in mixed leagues.
• Wes Helms, 3B, Marlins: With five extra-base hits in 19 career at-bats against Roy Oswalt, it seems Helms has Oswalt's number. Overall, Helms is hitting .368 against Oswalt, taking him deep once, to go along with four doubles. There's no guarantee he'll start, but given his success against Oswalt, you'd think he has a chance to start over Nick Johnson.
• Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins: Another marginal player who seems to have Oswalt figured out, Hermida has two homers and a double among his five hits in 12 career at-bats.
• Miguel Olivo, C, Royals: With hits in half of his 10 at-bats versus Nick Blackburn, including two long balls, it seems likely that Olivo will get the start Tuesday.
• Randy Winn, OF, Giants: Five of his seven hits against Randy Wolf have gone for extra bases, although none have actually left the yard. Still, you can work with a .368 average in 19 at-bats, so give Winn a shot.
Injury list: Out
• Aaron Cook, SP, Rockies (toe): Cook will miss his start Tuesday due to turf toe but plans on starting Saturday. Josh Fogg is scheduled to take his place, but if Fogg is needed in the bullpen beforehand, the starter is expected to be top prospect Jhoulys Chacin.
• Jed Lowrie, SS, Red Sox (15-day DL, forearm)
• Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds (head): Rolen is still experiencing post-concussion symptoms and will be barred from any physical activity for several days. At this point, it will be surprising if he is not placed on the disabled list.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (15-day DL, calf): Berkman ran in the pool Sunday and is nearing a return; he's shooting for Tuesday or Wednesday.
• Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets (ankle): According to manager Jerry Manuel, Castillo's ankle injury has healed to the point that he can start Sunday. But just in case, we'll list him here anyway.
• Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (shoulder): Crede got a cortisone shot Friday and is scheduled to do baseball activities Tuesday. He could be ready to return by Wednesday.
• Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (ankle)
• Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Cardinals (back; available to pinch hit)
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (oblique)
• Roy Oswalt, SP, Astros (back): After a Sunday bullpen session, Oswalt declared himself able to make Tuesday's start.
• Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks (calf)
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (shoulder): Word is Ramirez might need a cortisone shot if the soreness has not alleviated by Tuesday. It sounds like he could be out a couple of more days.
• Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles (shin): Roberts missed Sunday's game but said he was fine and could have easily played. You should see him back in there Monday or Tuesday.
• Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants (hamstring)
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers (shoulder): Saltalamacchia wanted to play Sunday, but with an off day Monday, it made more sense to hold him out and give him two days of rest. He's expected to suit up Tuesday.
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets (hamstring)
• The Padres-Brewers, Royals-Twins, Mets-Diamondbacks and White Sox-Mariners games all have the fortune of being played in domes.
• Nearly half of Tuesday's scheduled games might have to dodge rain, beginning in the Northeast, where New York, Boston and Baltimore all are at risk of thunderstorms. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are expected to see storms most of the day and well into the night.
• Storms also are expected in St. Louis, although the skies should clear up around 9 p.m. And finally, evening showers are expected in Denver. Fortunately, there is only a 30 to 40 percent chance of rain in any given city, so the games might not be affected too much.